'They liked to go out in grand style': a tour of mausoleums in old KC cemeteries

Many of the biggest names in Kansas City history are chiseled into the stone of mausoleums in the city's graceful old cemeteries, such as Elmwood and Mount Washington.

Kansas City Star photographer and videographer Keith Myers recently visited some of those final resting places, many built between the 1880s and 1920s.

"They liked to go out in grand style," said historian Bruce Mathews. "Many of them wanted to be remembered just by what we're doing today, talking about them because of the grandeur of their mausoleums."

William Rockhill Nelson, founder and publisher of The Star, is entombed with his family at Mount Washington Cemetery in a mausoleum big enough to be a church. But there are no seats.

Joseph Taylor Bird, of the Emery, Bird, Thayer Dry Goods Co., rests in a Grecian-style tomb with his wife, Annie, at Mount Washington.

Among the 29 crypts on "mausoleum row" at Elmwood is one built by John W. Reid, who served as a captain in the Mexican War.

"I don't think people could afford anything like this today," said Paul Benson, treasurer of the Elmwood Cemetery Society, "and also just to buy a plot big enough for a mausoleum these days can actually be quite expensive."